California Counties of Los Angeles and Sonoma Vote on Extending, Expanding Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Ordinances

On January 26, 2021, Los Angeles County and Sonoma County, California voted on whether and how to expand and extend their supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) ordinances that expired at the end of 2020.

Los Angeles County: The Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance both extending and greatly expanding the supplemental paid sick leave ordinance applicable in the county’s unincorporated areas. The amendments extend the law’s duration retroactively to January 1, 2021, and provide that the law will remain in effect until two calendar weeks after the county’s COVID-19 local emergency ends.

Originally, the ordinance applied to employers with 500 or more U.S. employees in the county’s unincorporated areas (examples of incorporated areas include the cities of Long Beach and Los Angeles, which have their own laws). Nevertheless, as amended, and in light of the expiration of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the law will now apply to all employers. For employers that were not covered under the initial law – those with 499 or fewer U.S. employees – the law’s requirements apply retroactively to January 1, 2021.

Although the county extended the duration and scope of the law, it does not require employers to provide a new bank of SPSL. The amended ordinance provides that employees who used all available L.A. County SPSL or FFCRA emergency paid sick leave in 2020 are ineligible for additional L.A. County SPSL in 2021. Additionally, as amended, the ordinance allows employers to offset the amount of L.A. County SPSL they must provide employees by the amount of leave they provided them under the FFCRA.

For employers that have employees that are now covered or employers that are only now covered by the amended ordinance, the amendments create an issue concerning how to calculate the amount of L.A. County SPSL certain employees receive. The SPSL calculation standards continue to use “the period of January 1, 2020 through the effective date of this Chapter,” which was April 28, 2020. Accordingly, the amended ordinance is silent concerning the period of time employers must use for employees hired on or after April 29, 2020. Similarly, it does not address how employers previously covered by the federal FFCRA – and who were therefore not covered by the L.A. County law – calculate the leave amount. These employers may wonder whether they can use their original FFCRA calculation for L.A. County SPSL purposes. Even assuming employers could use the FFCRA calculation, however, there will be employees who never had an FFCRA leave amount calculated because they did not experience a qualifying need for leave, which triggered the obligation to calculate leave under the FFCRA. It is hoped the L.A. County Board of Supervisors will clarify these issues via amendments.

Sonoma County: The Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance that immediately extends its SPSL ordinance through June 30, 2021. Unlike in L.A. County, the extension is not retroactive, meaning that employees needing leave between the expiration on December 31, 2020, and the effective date of the amended ordinance, are not covered. During the meeting, and previous meetings concerning the extension, representatives of the County Counsel’s Office expressed concern with making the extension retroactive.

Separately, the Board voted to have staff draft a proposed ordinance to expand the law’s coverage from employers with 500 or more U.S. employees to all employers within the county’s unincorporated areas. Additionally, supervisors discussed the need for a notice or posting requirement. The Board will consider the new proposal at its February 9, 2021 meeting.

State of Affairs: Nearly all local California supplemental paid sick leave laws from 2020 have been revived or extended for 2021: Long Beach; Los Angeles (City & County); Oakland; Sacramento (City & County); San Francisco; San Jose; San Mateo County; and Sonoma County. The only jurisdiction not yet to vote on the issue is Santa Rosa, which will do so at its February 2 meeting. To date, the California Legislature has not introduced a proposal to reinstate or expand the statewide emergency paid sick leave laws, nor has the governor acted through an executive order to do the same. 

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.